An Interview with Experienced Woodworkers: Revealing the Successful Woodworking Techniques

For those who have a passion for working with wood, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of turning a piece of rough lumber into a beautiful, functional object. In this interview, we will sit down with some of the most accomplished woodworkers in the industry to learn about their journey, their techniques, and the secrets of their success. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner just starting, this interview will provide insights and inspiration for anyone who loves woodworking. So, sharpen your saws, and let’s get started!

Mastering Woodworking: An Interview with Scott F. Cordell

In this edition of our woodworking series, we have the pleasure of being joined by Scott F. Cordell, a dedicated hobbyist and enthusiastic learner. With 30 of experience tinkering in the workshop and a passion for the craft, I (John Boson) bring a unique perspective to the interview process as an interviewer will be asking questions, sharing personal insights, and guiding the conversation with our experienced woodworkers. So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting, joining us leads the way in discovering the secrets of successful woodworking.

What inspired you to start woodworking?

Scott F. Cordell: My interest in woodworking started at a young age when I was helping my grandfather in his workshop. I was always fascinated by how he could take a piece of wood and transform it into something beautiful and functional. As I got older, I was drawn to working with my hands and creating something tangible and valuable. I started with simple projects, like building birdhouses and small pieces of furniture, and I quickly became hooked. I loved the challenge of working with different materials, figuring out how to join pieces together, and experimenting with other techniques and finishes.

As I gained more experience and confidence, I started tackling more prominent and complex projects, and I eventually made woodworking my full-time career. I feel truly grateful to be able to work with my hands and create beautiful things every day, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

What is your favorite project you’ve ever completed?

Scott F. Cordell: That’s a difficult question, as I have many projects I am proud of and hold a special place in my heart. However, if I had to choose just one, my favorite project was a custom dining table I made for my family. It was a large and complex project that took several months to complete, but the result was beautiful. I loved the challenge of working with such a large piece of wood and creating something that would be used and enjoyed by my family for years to come. The process of selecting the wood, designing the table, and bringing it to life was gratifying, and I will always cherish the memories associated with that project. Every time I sit down at that table, I am reminded of the time, effort, and love that went into creating it, and I am proud to have such a particular piece in my home.

Can you share a tip or trick for beginners looking to get into woodworking?

Scott F. Cordell: Absolutely! I would give to anyone starting in woodworking: Start with a small project. Choose something simple, like a bookshelf or a picture frame, and focus on doing it well. It will give you a chance to learn the basics and develop your skills, and it will also give you a sense of accomplishment that will keep you motivated. Another thing is to invest in high-quality tools. While it may be tempting to go for cheaper, lower-quality devices when you’re just starting, they can be frustrating to work with and may even compromise the quality of your projects.

Investing in quality tools will give you a much better experience and be more likely to stick with woodworking in the long run. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. Woodworking can be a complex and challenging hobby, and there is no shame in seeking guidance from more experienced woodworkers. They can provide valuable tips, tricks, and insights to help you grow and improve your skills.

What is your go-to tool or piece of equipment in your workshop?

Scott F. Cordell: That’s a tricky question, as every tool and equipment has its unique purpose and value. However, if I had to choose just one, my go-to tool would be my table saw. It’s a versatile tool allows me to make precise cuts and perform various tasks, from ripping and cross-cutting to angled cuts and bevels. It’s also one of the essential tools for any woodworker and one I find myself using daily. With its ability to handle a variety of materials and thicknesses, it’s a tool that I can only cut.

Ultimately, choosing a go-to tool will depend on the woodworker’s preferences and the projects they have done in their working process.

What is the need for the best tools for starting woodworking?

Scott F. Cordell: Having the correct tools is essential for anyone who wants to start woodworking. The right tools allow you to work more efficiently, produce higher-quality results, and, most importantly, ensure your safety.

For beginners, it’s essential to start with the basics, such as a good-quality saw, a drill, a sander, and a set of hand tools. As you become more experienced and confident in your skills, you can start to invest in more specialized tools, such as a planer, a router, or a jointer.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for specific brands and models, as what works best for one woodworker may be better for another. However, it’s essential to research and read reviews from other woodworkers before purchasing to ensure that you get a quality tool that will meet your needs.

It’s also worth noting that the most expensive tools are only sometimes the best and that sometimes, a less expensive tool with fewer bells and whistles can do the job just as well, if not better.

Overall, having the right tools is essential for anyone who wants to start woodworking, as they allow you to work more efficiently, produce higher-quality results, and ensure your safety while working.

Can you talk about a particularly challenging project and how you overcame any obstacles?

Scott F. Cordell: Yes, I remember working on a challenging and rewarding project. It was a custom dining table for a client. The table had to be large, sturdy, elegant, and aesthetically pleasing. The main challenge was ensuring that the table was sturdy enough to withstand heavy use and lightweight enough to be easily moved.

To overcome these challenges, I spent a lot of time researching and experimenting with different materials and techniques. I also sought advice from more experienced woodworkers to ensure I used the right tools and techniques.

Ultimately, I overcame these obstacles by carefully planning my project, using high-quality materials, and ensuring I did it to the best of my ability. I also used new techniques and technologies, such as dowel joinery instead of traditional mortise and tenon joints, to make the table solid and lightweight.

This project taught me the importance of perseverance and the value of seeking advice and guidance from others. It was also an excellent opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge of woodworking, and I was proud to deliver a product that exceeded my client’s expectations.

How do you balance safety and efficiency in your workshop?

Scott F. Cordell: Safety is always my top priority when working in my workshop, and I take several steps to ensure that I work in a safe and secure environment. First and foremost, I always wear proper personal protective equipment, such as eye protection, hearing protection, and a dust mask, whenever I use power tools.

Being organized and having a well-maintained workspace is vital in terms of efficiency. I ensure that my tools and equipment are adequately stored and within easy reach, and I keep my workspace clean and free of clutter. It allows me to work quickly and efficiently without wasting time searching for the necessary tools and materials.

Additionally, I have a system for regularly inspecting my equipment and ensuring everything is in good working order. It helps prevent accidents and downtime and allows me to work as efficiently as possible.

Ultimately, the key to balancing safety and efficiency in the workshop is to be proactive and vigilant and to always prioritize safety over speed. By doing so, I can work efficiently and effectively while minimizing the risk of injury or accidents in the workshop.

How do you approach the design and planning phase for a new project?

Scott F. Cordell: The design and planning phase is one of the most critical stages of any woodworking project.

  • I begin by visualizing the result and considering the purpose and function of the project. It helps me determine the project’s size, shape, and style.
  • Next, I will consider the materials I need and their availability, cost, and suitability for the project. It helps me to determine the best options for my project.
  • Create a rough sketch or drawing of the project, which helps me to visualize the project and refine my ideas.
  • Then make a list of all the materials and tools I will need for the project, ensuring I have everything I need before I start.
  • Prepare a budget for the project, considering the cost of materials, tools, and any other expenses I might incur during the project.
  • Finally, I make a schedule for the project, setting a realistic timeline for completion and factoring in any potential delays or setbacks.

By following this process, I can ensure that I have a clear and well-defined plan for my project before I start, which helps me to work more efficiently and avoid costly mistakes.

Can you recommend any good resources (books, websites, etc.) for learning more about woodworking?

Scott F. Cordell: 

  • “The Complete Guide to Woodworking” by Tom Carpenter and “The Complete Manual of Woodworking” by Albert Jackson are two great books that cover the basics of woodworking and provide a wealth of information and projects for beginners and experienced woodworkers alike.
  • Woodworkers Guild of America ( – This website offers a wide range of woodworking resources, including articles, videos, and online classes.
  • Woodworking for Mere Mortals (
  • Popular Woodworking (
  • Some famous YouTube channels include “The Wood Whisperer,” “I Like to Make Stuff,” and “Steve Ramsey – Woodworking for Mere Mortals.”

What are the essential skills for a woodworker to have?

Scott F. Cordell: In addition to the skills mentioned above, it’s also essential for woodworkers to have good communication skills. It involves being able to listen to the client’s needs and preferences and being able to design and build processes.

Good time-management skills are also essential, as woodworkers need to work efficiently and manage their time effectively. Good organizational skills in the workshop and keeping track of materials, tools, and project timelines are also essential.

Finally, a passion for woodworking and a love of working with wood is essential for success in this field. Combining these skills allows woodworkers to create beautiful, functional, and high-quality projects.

What are the most common mistakes you see beginners make in woodworking, and how can they avoid them?

Scott F. Cordell: One of the most common mistakes I see beginners make is needing to take the time to plan out their projects properly. It’s essential to take time and ensure a solid plan before cutting and building.

Another common mistake beginners make using the right tools for the job. Using the right tool can lead to good-quality work and can be dangerous. To avoid this, ensure you understand what each tool is used for and how to use it safely.

Not wearing the proper safety gear is another common mistake beginners make. Woodworking can be dangerous, and not wearing the right equipment can lead to severe injuries. To avoid this, always wear eye protection, hearing protection, and a dust mask when working with wood.

In the end, these common mistakes, and taking the time to plan, measure, and mark accurately, using the right tools, wearing the proper safety gear, and being patient, you can avoid many of the mistakes beginners make in woodworking.

How do you source and select the wood you use for your projects?

Scott F. Cordell: Sourcing and selecting suitable wood for a project is a crucial step in the woodworking process. Some factors to consider are the type of wood, its grain pattern, and stability.

One of the first things I do is determine what type of wood best suits the project. Hardwoods like oak and maple are good choices for furniture and cabinetry, while softwoods like pine are often used for construction projects.

Once I’ve decided on the type of wood, I’ll inspect it to ensure it meets my quality standards. It means checking for any knots, cracks, or other imperfections that could impact the stability and appearance of the finished product.

Regarding sourcing the wood, I often buy from local lumber yards or specialty wood suppliers. I also watch for reclaimed or salvaged wood, which can add character and history to a project.

When selecting wood, it’s essential to consider the environment and sustainability. I use wood from responsibly managed forests and avoid endangered or threatened species.

In conclusion, sourcing and selecting suitable wood for a project is a crucial step in the woodworking process. It requires careful consideration of some factors, including the type of wood, its grain pattern, stability, and environmental impact.

How do you stay current with new techniques and materials in the field?

Scott F. Cordell: I believe in the importance of continuous learning and staying up to date with the latest developments in the field. I attend workshops, trade shows, and conferences, and I also have a network of fellow woodworkers with whom I regularly exchange ideas and information. Additionally, I stay active in online forums and read industry publications to stay informed about new techniques and materials.

What advice would you give to starting a career in woodworking?

Scott F. Cordell: My advice would be to start with a strong foundation of knowledge and technical skills. Take classes, attend workshops, and practice as much as you can. Additionally, be willing to learn from your mistakes and not be afraid to take on challenging projects. Finally, build a strong network of fellow woodworkers and stay curious and open-minded about new techniques and materials. I can succeed in this rewarding and fulfilling field with hard work and dedication.


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